By Jake Donovan
Not only does boxing fail to fare well when competing against itself, but struggles when competing with other major sporting events.
Bernard Hopkins has never been a major pay-per-view attraction, but the future Hall of Fame boxing legend has always managed to serve as a huge ratings magnet for HBO and Showtime. That dynamic dramatically changed over the past weekend, with his April 19 historic unification title win over Beibut Shumenov on Showtime averaging just 760,000 viewers over the course of their 12-round main event, according to data obtained from Nielsen Media Research.
The live televised tripleheader averaged 693,000 viewers over the course the evening, with the show competing against the NBA Playoffs on basic cable and also the exclusive replay of Manny Pacquiao’s rematch win over Tim Bradley, which aired on HBO.
At age 49, Hopkins made history (again) by becoming the oldest fighter ever to successfully unify titles in a weight class in a dominating showing against Shumenov, a fighter 18 years his junior. The event gained greater relevance last month when it was learned that Adonis Stevenson – who earlier in the year signed with Al Haymon – pledged his allegiance to Showtime and expressed an interest in fighting the winner.
However, viewer turnout suggests – in addition to there being too much from which to choose on the evening – there is greater interest in a head-on collision with Stevenson, than to tune in to the buildup to such a fight. Hopkins’ bout was overshadowed in the ratings by the evening’s co-feature, with Shawn Porter’s 4th round knockout of Paul Malignaggi averaging 897,000 viewers.
The opening bout of the evening saw Peter Quillin score a methodical 12-round decision over Lucas Konecny. The bout averaged 622,000 viewers.
Overall, the average total for the live broadcast barely edged the Pacquiao-Bradley rematch replay on HBO, which drew a rating of 689,000 viewers. The replay for their controversial first fight in June 2012 was nearly double that at 1.3 million, though also serving as a lead-in to a live broadcast, with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. – then an undefeated middleweight titlist and a huge draw on his own – scoring a stoppage win over Andy Lee.
Pacquiao’s win over Bradley – which came April 12 and aired live on HBO PPV – featured far less controversy. Pacquiao scored a clean decision, one well reflected on the judges’ scorecards. Saturday’s exclusive replay was not accompanied by a live boxing event. Instead it served as the lead-in to the most recent edition of HBO’s The Fight Game with Jim Lampley.
Hopkins’ latest appearance on Showtime saw a decrease of nearly 25% in viewership from last October’s win over Karo Murat, which pulled in roughly 1 million viewers.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America.